ERL Sports Earphones

Following the failed purchase of Treblab X11 wireless earphones, I decided I deserved a better pair and clicked on the suggested ad on FB for a new pair of buds. Apparently, “once bitten, twice shy” does not apply to me, as this was also a pair of buds launched using crowdfunding.

The ERL Wireless Sports Earbuds (ERL being the acronym for Electronic Research Lab) touts technology derived from “top audio and antenna engineers from MIT” that provides good quality at a price similar to my previous failed purchase (self-rubbing salt into self-wound…).

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Long story short, I didn’t want to spend SGD300 plus on a pair of branded wireless earbuds lol

Delivery took slightly more than a month, including the time for the funding campaign to end. I thought the delivery time frame was too long.

The buds came in an unassuming package, consisting of the buds, 3 pairs of rubber ear tips and a charging/carrying case (yes, there was no charging cable). One basically just places the buds in the case and plug the case to any micro-USB charger.

I wasn’t sure how long the first charge should take; the info online said about 2 hours, but just about half an hour in, the buds were glowing green and the four LED lights in the case were lit up.

That brought me to my first listening experience the next day.

The buds didn’t last for more than 1 hour the first time I listened to music on it, on Spotify, on my Google Pixel XL phone. My subsequent listening times were much shorter, as my daily commute didn’t take more than an hour each way (giving me time to charge the buds in between). All in all, between the first and second charges on the cable, the charging case lasted another 6 times of charging.

From the time of receiving the buds to the time of writing, my longest use was 1.5 hours, which was far lower than the 3.5hrs touted on the advtertisement.

The sound, on the other hand, was far better than Treblab’s. The music sounded fuller and I detected no noise. In addition, the ear tips that came with the buds fit snugly in my ear, so there was no “leakage” of sound from the outside, which made it even more enjoyable to listen to music using the buds.

However, when using it for phone calls, my peer on the other end complained that he could not hear me; he said I sounded too soft (not muffled).  Granted, I was in a café in a mall, but it was off-peak hour then and the cafe was empty, so the noise from external environment should not have too much an interfering effect.

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Setting up the buds was simple enough, which made me wonder how they could screw that up on the instruction sheet that accompanied the package. The steps are as below:

  1. Turn on your device’s Bluetooth
  2. Long-press your left earbud, till you hear “Power On” and “Pairing”. It should take about 5 seconds before your release your finger
  3. Wait for your phone to detect and pair the device, or you could go into the phone’s Bluetooth settings to pair it manually. Your cue would be when you hear “Connected”
  4. Once paired, long press the right earbud until you hear “Power On” and a “Beep”

For subsequent listening on a paired device, the same chronology of “Turn device Bluetooth on” > “Turn Left earbud on” > “Turn Right earbud on” applies.

Another difficulty for first-time users lies in the fact that there was no labelling of left and right on the earbuds. For the record, when the buds are in the case, with the power button of the case towards you (or below the LED lights), the bud on the left goes to the left ear and vice versa.

The last, but super buggy issue was the Bluetooth connection. The signals got lost for the silliest reason, like when I placed my phone in my jeans pocket, in the right back pants pocket (I assume the main antenna is on the left earbud, because if I were wearing pants and I placed my phone in my left back pocket, no interference was experienced), when I turned my head too fast too suddenly, when I swung my hands while walking… The worst case (that happened only once) was when I was chewing on my sweet and the song began to sound like a broken record.

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Again, this failure was stark when considering that they were touting this in a big way on their advertisement.

That being said, I think I’ll hold on to this pair of buds for the time being. The reasons were simple: sub-SGD100 (including shipping) + decent sound quality + good soundproofing. Since I seldom listened to music while walking, the Bluetooth issues that occurred due to movement did not really affect me that much.

In fact, I liked it so much I bought another pair for N! This time around, delivery took 2 weeks only. Seems like they made some improvements!

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